Gallaudet diversity officer criticizes university - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Gallaudet diversity officer Angela McCaskill 'insulted and humiliated' for being placed on leave

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Angela McCaskill Angela McCaskill
Angela McCaskill (center in blue) Angela McCaskill (center in blue)
Angela McCaskill Angela McCaskill

The administrator at Gallaudet University who has been suspended for signing a petition to put the issue of gay marriage before Maryland voters has broken her silence. 

Dr. Angela McCaskill, the university's Chief Diversity Officer, told reporters in Annapolis on Tuesday she felt "shocked, hurt, insulted and humiliated" by her suspension, which she considers a firing.

Earlier this year, Maryland's legislature narrowly passed a law which would legalize gay marriage. Opponents quickly circulated petitions to stop the legislation from going into effect unless voters also agreed with the idea. Upon hearing a sermon on marriage (at her church), Dr. McCaskill said she then signed one of the petitions, upsetting some in the university community.

Rachel Sweigart, a junior at Gallaudet, said McCaskill "of all people" should have known that some students would be offended by her participation in the referendum campaign.

But Christine Parrotte, an alumnae of Gallaudet, has another view: "I don't think she should have been suspended. I think that it is her right (and her freedom of speech) to believe whatever she believes, and [to] sign what she wants to sign."

McCaskill told reporters that in early October, when a lesbian faculty member demanded the administration "reprimand" her for signing the petition, she proposed another path to the administration: "I asked for campus-wide dialog." Instead, she was suspended with pay.

Dr. McCaskill says she is not anti-gay, she is simply pro-democracy, and she has declined to publicly say which way she will vote on Nov. 6th on the issue of gay marriage in Maryland.

Her suspension from her job at Gallaudet has been condemned from many directions, including the very conservative Family Research Council to the rather liberal, pro-gay marriage Governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley.

Del. Aisha Braveboy, who voted against the gay marriage law, also condemned the suspension of McCaskill, pointing out that if a person's livelihood is jeopardized by signing a petition, the right to review legislation in Maryland becomes diminished. Del. Jolene Ivey and Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, both of whom voted for the gay marriage law, also condemned the suspension.

Gallaudet released a statement characterizing the suspension as "prudent," but also inviting McCaskill back to talk about how she might return as the university's chief diversity officer.

McCaskill's attorney, J. Wyndal Gordan, told reporters his client has been harmed by the ordeal, but indicated he is willing to talk to the university.

Statement from Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz:

"I am sending this communication to indicate forcefully that Gallaudet University would like to work with its Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, to enable her to return to the community from her administrative leave.

As many know, Dr. McCaskill exercised her right to sign a petition concerning legislation on gay marriage. Because of her position at Gallaudet as our Chief Diversity Officer, many individuals at our university were understandably concerned and confused by her action. They wanted to know "does that action interfere with her ability to perform her job?"

I placed her on paid administrative leave as a prudent action to allow the university -- and Dr. McCaskill - the time to consider this question after the emotions of first reactions subsided. While this has become an issue beyond our campus, as President of Gallaudet University, my number one concern is our university community - our students, faculty and staff and so many others who support us. I act on their behalf, not with any agenda other than their well-being as all of us work to prepare these university students for the future. While I expect that a resolution of this matter can be reached that will enable Dr. McCaskill to continue as our Chief Diversity Officer, this will require that she and the University community work together to respond to the concerns that have been raised.

My practice, which I will continue, is to reach out to the campus community to ensure that we are acting with their best interests in mind. To accomplish that, dialogs among those with differing views are common on our campus as a way of fostering understanding of the opinions, and the individuals holding them, which are different from ours.

I have complete confidence that the community will emerge stronger because of this situation. In particular, I am incredibly proud of our students - as well as our faculty and staff -- who have shown maturity and restraint under the pressures of the complexities of the situation.

Dr. McCaskill has been, and can continue to be, a valued member of this community and we are very much interested in working with everyone to come to a shared understanding in an environment that allows the community to rebound and move forward.

Each of us would benefit from remembering that everyone should be treated with civility and respect as we work together to create a positive and welcoming environment that is open to the free exchange of ideas and the acceptance of others who may hold views that differ from ours."

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